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How Saigon Moved 2,200km of Electrical Wires Underground in a Decade

So famous they've adorned T-shirts, Saigon's tangles of electrical wires are disappearing.

Tuoi Tre reports on the long process of moving the city's countless power lines underground, a project that was first outlined as far back as 2003.

Initially, Saigon's electricity company piloted the effort on Le Loi, Le Duan and Nguyen Hue — three of the most prominent thoroughfares in town. However, communications and lighting cables weren't part of the plan, meaning that the roads weren't yet totally wire-free.

This work took place in 2009 and 2010, namely around City Hall, Ben Thanh Market and along Tran Hung Dao, Le Thanh Ton and Truong Dinh.

In the ensuing years, the burying of all cables gradually spread, reaching non-central parts of District 1, as well as District 3, from 2015. Today, according to the news source, central Saigon is free of above-ground cables of any kind, while progress is being made in outlying districts.

Massive, tangled clumps of power lines have long been fodder for bemused tourists, but in reality they posed a safety hazard, in addition to creating visual chaos.

"As the tangle became a mess, it was tightened up with metal rings," Linh, who owns a shop on Vo Thi Sau Street in District 3, told the newspaper of wires outside her business. "We lived on thin ice back then, worrying a short circuit might have caused a devastating blaze. In 2017, those wires started being unraveled and grounded."

In the early years of this campaign, a lack of coordination between the power company and communications companies meant that, in certain instances, a sidewalk would be dug up to place power lines underground and then repaired, only for another company to come along and dig up the same ground for similar work.

A steering committee was formed in 2014 to coordinate these aspects of the work, and since then the grounding of cables has gone more smoothly.

Over the last decade, 240 projects have put roughly 2,200 kilometers of wiring underground on 195 Saigon streets. Through 2025, city officials hope to put another 1,300 kilometers of cabling under the surface.

[Photo via Flickr user lets.book]

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